Spanish soccer star Carles Puyol, who captains FC Barcelona and led Spain to the World Cup title one year ago, is now tackling an even bigger challenge – saving orangutans.
Puyol is featured in “Act Now for Orangutans,” a new campaign from the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) and International Animal Rescue (IAR) that seeks to halt the orangutan’s dramatic slide towards extinction. Less than 66,000 wild orangutans are thought to remain in the forests of Borneo and Sumatra, and more than half of that population has been lost since 1950.
Puyol is the centrepiece of dramatic posters that state, “I Care – Do You?” and asks supporters to visit a website (www.actnowfororangutans.org) that provides information regarding orangutan conservation, re-forestation, and the palm oil crisis.
U.S. Will Not Back Future Chimpanzee Research
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has suspended all new grants for biomedical and behavioral research on chimpanzees and accepted the first uniform criteria for assessing the necessity of such research, dramatically limiting the use of great apes as test subjects.
The guidelines require that the research be necessary for human health, and that there be no other way to accomplish it.
NIH director Dr. Francis S. Collins, said that chimpanzees, as the closest human relatives, deserve “special consideration and respect” and that the agency was accepting the recommendations released earlier in the day that concluded most research on chimpanzees was unnecessary.
Although the NIH announcement does not definitively rule out future research, it was hailed by wildlife conservation, rights and welfare groups that have been battling for decades to end chimpanzee experimentation.
Uganda Census Ends; Results A Year Away
The Mountain gorilla census for Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park that began in September concluded three weeks ago, but researchers say it could take at least a year to analyze the data and release accurate figures regarding the population of Mountain gorillas in the region.
The project was led by the International Gorilla Conservation Program (ICP), in partnership with the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and the Max Planck Institute – all of whom are members of the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP). It is the fourth census conducted of Mountain gorillas in Uganda since 1997, and is expected to identify at least 300 individuals.
Approximately 780 Mountain gorillas are known to exist in the three countries that comprise their range: Rwanda, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Report: Orangutans Killed for Meat in Kalimantan
A conservation report states that 691 endangered orangutans were killed in Borneo during a recent 17-month period – many for meat, and some at the behest of palm oil companies – with any babies captured alive sold into the pet trade.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) coordinated the report, which was supported by GRASP partners such as the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF), among others, and involved a survey of 698 villages across Kalimantan.
TNC program manager Neil Makinuddin said 70 percent of the respondents knew that orangutans were a protected and endangered species when they hunted the animals.
A United Nations report says sustainable bushmeat harvesting is possible, but only if governments combine new mechanisms for monitoring and law enforcement with new management models, such as community-based management or game-ranching. Finding alternate means of livelihood for residents of forests and other wild lands also will help conserve vanishing species.
If not, the rapid depletion of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals – including great apes in both Africa and Asia – will continue to gain pace as a result of the illegal trade in the meat and other parts of wildlife.
The report, “Livelihood Alternatives for the Unsustainable Use of Bushmeat,” was prepared for the Bushmeat Liaison Group of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), with assistance from the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and financial support from the European Union.
Download Report [PDF, 1mb]
UNEP Study Confirms DR Congo Biodiversity Under Threat
Kinshasa – A major Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the Democratic Republic of Congo by the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) confirms the country’s wealth of natural resources, but warns that 190 species – including critically endangered Mountain gorillas – are in peril, that the illegal bushmeat trade has devastated biodiversity, and that tropical rainforests are an untapped source of ecosystem revenue worth $900 million annually.
DR Congo possesses half of Africa’s forests and water resources and trillion dollar mineral reserves, and could become a powerhouse of African development provided multiple pressures on its natural resources are urgently addressed.
But the study, Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment of the Democratic Republic of Congo: Synthesis Report for Policy Makers, warns of alarming trends including increased deforestation, species depletion, heavy metal pollution and land degradation from mining, as well as an acute drinking water crisis that has left an estimated 51 million Congolese without access to potable water.
Download the report: [English] [French] (PDF, 5mb)
UN Offers ‘Green Economy’ Options to Offset Cost of Critical Orangutan Protection
Jakarta – Indonesia could balance conservation and development objectives – and potentially triple the economic benefits derived from key orangutan habitats– by adopting Green Economy initiatives, according to an 18-month study released today by theUnited Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) under its Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP).
Orangutans and the Economics of Sustainable Forest Management in Sumatra, which was produced at the request of the Republic of Indonesia, examines specific sites in Sumatra that host significant populations of critically endangered orangutans, and offers concrete sustainable land-use options.
Continue to Orangutan Report Website
GRASP Welcomes U.S. Government Decision to Review Chimpanzee Status
Nairobi – The Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) welcomed the United States government’s recent announcement it will re-examine the conservation status of captive chimpanzees, a decision that could close a controversial loophole that many believe hindered attempts to protect the apes.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stated on August 31 that it has initiated a review of whether captive chimpanzees should be “up-listed” from the current “threatened” status to “endangered.”
Although chimpanzees are classified as “endangered” in the wild – and some sub-species have dwindled to just a few hundred in select regions – the estimated 2,150 chimpanzees in the U.S. are regarded differently because they were once needed for bio-medical experiments.
Faced with “Empty Forests,” Experts Urge Better Regulation of Bushmeat Trade
Nairobi – A growing and lucrative illegal international commercial trade in the meat and other parts of wild mammals, birds and reptiles (‘bushmeat’) is causing widespread loss of biodiversity, imperilling the livelihoods of communities around the world, and destabilising fragile tropical forest ecosystems, say experts at an international conference in Kenya called to discuss the crisis.
There is also a growing domestic trade in bushmeat between rural areas and urban markets, mostly for food. The resulting ’empty forest syndrome’ is increasingly threatening food security, in particular in Central Africa. Stemming the loss of forest fauna will require coordinated action between international actors working on forest and wildlife management, conservation of biodiversity, wildlife trade regulation, law enforcement and health officials, concluded a meeting of experts on the bushmeat trade.
Prof. Toshisada Nishida, a Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) patron whose long-running study of wild chimpanzees helped define the social, cultural, and political structure of great apes, passed away on June 8 following a lengthy illness. He was 70.
Prof. Nishida spent 40 years observing chimpanzee behavior in the Mahale Mountains of southern Tanzania, on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. His research yielded important findings regarding tool use, communication, female transfers between groups, coalitionary tactics, and a host of other topics.
Prof. Nishida was the former Head of Evolution Studies at Kyoto University in Japan, and served as president of the International Primatological Society (IPS) from 1996-2000.
“The great apes have lost a true champion with the death of Prof. Nishida,” said Doug Cress, coordinator of GRASP. “His research did much to increase our understanding of primate behavior, but it was his willingness to commit himself to the conservation of great apes and the protection of their habitat that may be his greatest contribution.”
Alarmed by human encroachment into the chimpanzees’ range, Prof. Nishida spearheaded a successful effort to establish the Mahale Mountains as a Tanzanian National Park in 1985, and he set up a non-profit conservation organization devoted to this cause, the Mahale Wildlife Conservation Society.